Poor Ethics on the International Tennis Scene

There’s an old saying…well, not really, I just made it up: “If you can’t beat someone at a sport, come out with a dumbass comment that insults them.”

I guess that saying pretty much sums up Russian Tennis Federation president Shamil Tarpischev. According to an article (October 18, 2014) sent out on ESPN news services entitled: “Shamil Tarpischev fined, banned year,” we learn that:

“Russian Tennis Federation President Shamil Tarpischev has been fined $25,000 by the WTA Tour and suspended from tour involvement for a year for questioning Serena and Venus Williams’ gender in comments on Russian television last week. Tarpischev appeared on the Russian late-night show ‘Evening Urgant’ [note: not a misspell] alongside former WTA player Elena Dementieva last week. When Dementieva was asked what it was like to play against the Williams sisters, Tarpischev jumped in and referred to them as the ‘Williams brothers,’ according to multiple reports.”

It is important to the discussion that Elena Dementieva did not laugh; perhaps she was surprised by the comment – or was afraid to react, but the Federation president continued on his rant:

“It’s frightening when you look at them. But really you just need to play against the ball.”

The WTA [World Tennis Association] Tour fined Tarpischev $25,000 fine and he is banned as chairman of the Kremlin Cup for one year. He has also been asked to issue an apology. In a statement by WTA Tour chairman and CEO Stacey Allaster:

“’Mr. Tarpischev’s statements questioning their genders tarnish our great game and two of our champions,’” the statement continued. “’His derogatory remarks deserve to be condemned and he will be sanctioned.’”

A really bad joke

For his part, Tarpishev said it was only a joke and that he did not mean any harm, but why say anything at all? He is the head of a tennis federation!

I understand it; from time to time we all like to be funny or what we think is “edgy,” and really fall flat on our faces after making a stupid joke. In this day and age there is no such thing as the ability to take anything back once it’s out there.

Heck, I teach a program for athletes and the social media. I can’t tell you how many stupid comments athletes have tweeted after a Saturday night of partying – that they invariably come to regret the next day.

The Williams sisters are incredible athletes and I have no doubt they could have succeeded at any sport they tried. Some of us (unfortunately, not me!) have been touched by the angels and possess perfect physiques for a given sport. It also takes incredibly hard work to harness that body into a winning athlete, don’t get me wrong, but given training and practice combined with the physique, champions can emerge at the end of the process. However, why doubt their gender and disparage them? It’s just ethically stupid.

Poor behavior can and does happen most anywhere in sports, and it is universally off-the-field behavior that brings athletes, coaches and even federation presidents down. Whether in the electronic media in Russia or a New Jersey-based athlete tweeting from his mobile device, there are no secrets and no taking things back any longer.

You might say that bad ethics can be instantaneously known, as in this case.






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